A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: remullin

The War

How does one find the words?

When I first started my blog, this was the entry I couldn't wait to write. The entry where I thought I would have a million things to say. I thought I'd be able to break down this insanely complex series of events into understandable stages and give everyone back home a greater sense of what took place here from 1992-1995. I thought I'd be able to tell of all of these ways modern day Bosnia is dealing with the war, moving forward, and progressing.

I mean one of my main reasons for coming to Bosnia this summer was to study the war, why shouldn't I be excited to give a small taste of what I had learned? I spent all last semester studying and reading about events such as Srebrenica, the siege of Sarajevo, ethnic concentration camps (set up by all sides, not just Serbs), the rape camps, and the other countless atrocities that ravaged this country less than 20 year ago. Now I was finally getting a chance to study this firsthand. To talk with survivors, hear their stories, and see the very places so many of the books I read talked about. I was going to have so much to tell everyone.

As I come to the end of my time here, it's finally my chance to take on this topic and well it turns out I do have a million things to say with this post. They were just none of the things I thought I would have to say two months ago.

I fell into the same trap that so many political scientists (or aspiring ones) far too easily fall into. I came to a country thinking I could study it and its people. Thinking it would be like opening a textbook (an awesome one with really cool pictures, interactive lessons, riveting text and a nice shiny price tag as well). That I would be able to learn the lessons it contained and simply close the book, opening it when I needed another source or an example for my paper for something. But the rest of the time letting it sit on my shelf as I went along with my life.

Ha. How could I have ever been so wrong?

Did I think I could spend every day traveling on a tram system which became a portable death trap as snipers unleashed fire from the hills on the trapped riders and not wonder what if that was me? Did I think I could look out at the Holiday Inn from my bedroom window every day, the scene of the first shots of the war (depending on who's telling the story) without picturing the chaos of the bullets raining down on innocent men, women, and children? Did I think I could walk over the Sarajevo Roses every time I went to Old Town and not think about the lost lives that they represented? Did I think I could look up into the beautiful mountains surrounding my Balkan home and not think about the fact that no one can climb them because of the over 1,000,000 landmines (conservative estimate from the BiH Mine Action Center, CONSERVATIVE estimate) that still litter the hills and continue to claim lives today?

To be honest, I think I did. Or more accurately, I don't think I thought about these questions at all. When one reads about all of these things it makes one numb. It doesn't sink in; it's not something that we can put ourselves into. It is simply something that happened a long time ago, to a people we know little about, in a country that the majority of the world can't even point to on a map.

But during my time here, I have been incredibly blessed with how much people are willing to open up to me. Over the course of collecting interviews for my thesis and talking with those around me, I have learned more about this conflict than I ever could have expected. I have had survivors look me in the eye and try to explain to me what it’s like to watch as everything you knew and grew up with goes to hell in front of your eyes. I have heard stories of what it is like to have one’s body so ridden with bullets that doctors put you in the hospital hallway and hope for you to die quickly so that they can use the stretcher you’re lying on. I have been asked if I can imagine what it would be like to have my whole family and I assaulted and attacked by people I had known and trusted my whole life. To have the body of one your best friends still be missing almost 20 years later. They have trusted me with their stories and opened up the places in their memories that many would much rather prefer to forget.

They have shown me that this wasn’t some war that happened long ago in a faraway place. It’s a war that happened in my life time, to people the age I am now (and all other ages, but most of the people I have interviewed were late teens through early 20s during the war which gives a new level of resonance to their stories), in the places I inhabit every day.

As I turn to the research articles I will use in my papers, it’s impossible to read them as I did before. The bodies buried each year at Srebrenica (409 this year. 409 individuals buried in green mesh coffins that force the living to not kid themselves that a complete intact body is being buried, but to remember that just a bone or two is all that our most advanced technology could find. 409 people who’s loved ones have been left without closure for the past 18 years, who are now considered the lucky ones due to the 1000 still remaining missing) are no longer nameless remains, they are the family members of my co-workers. No longer can I look at the photos of the bombed out buildings of the Sarajevo without picturing them as they are today when I walk past them daily. No longer can I stand in buildings and run my fingers over walls that are so riddled with bullet holes that literally there is more surface area missing than remains and not think about that each of those bullets were meant to kill. To destroy a mother, father, son, or daughter who had done nothing wrong other than be born the wrong religion or live in the wrong part of town. No longer is the war
abstract. It is personal, it is real, and it is still being felt, every single day.

But in addition to struggling with how to process how real the war is and reminding myself that when I write about it, it is essential that I not lose the human aspect, there is a whole other level to talking and writing about the war that I had never considered. And that is how do you tell people about the war and about Bosnia without making conflict and violence all you tell people about.

Which seems so hypocritical considering what I just spent the last two pages doing. But it is essential that people are given enough facts, stories, and illustrations for the war to become real. For something to resonate and make one take a second to reflect. To realize that this was not just the work of ˝evil˝ people or a few depraved individuals but something that every person is capable of if placed in the same situation, facing the same pressures, and given the same choices. Something to make the lessons of the war stick. Otherwise the next part I dive into makes it far too easy to forget what the country has suffered and leave it on the pages of history books

So with that disclaimer, the other reality that I had not spent more than a few minutes considering before coming here is how hard Bosnia is that when one thinks of Bosnia, it is essential to not just think of the war. Which is like asking people to balance on a two centimeter wide tightrope over the Grand Canyon or something. It’s asking people to look at the country, see the scars of the war, feel the pain, understand the reality of what it means, but then also keep all of that in mind while at the same time focusing on all the good things Bosnia is working towards. But you can never let your focus on one overweigh the otherwise you go tumbling down into the abyss. It’s an almost impossible line to walk. And one that I particularly struggle with. I’m either so focused on the war or so focused on the future, that one always seems to be getting lost.

Bosnia is trying to move forward from the war. There are organizations like KULT (bias alert), Ekomozaik, Nešto Više, Perpetuum Mobile and so many others that are working to move on. They are trying to bring together youth from ethnic groups that society tried so hard to pull apart, to empower the next generation of political leaders to see themselves as Bosnian Herzegovinians rather than Croats, Serbs, or Bosniaks, to develop the potential in all of Bosnia so that its future may be brighter than its past. And they’re making progress. Throughout my time here I have seen youth come alive with excitement when they realize people care what they have to say, I have seen the country band together (regardless of ethnicity) for a common cause such as the JMBG movement, and I have seen the amazing individuals working to foster all of this. And I have immense hope to see where this country will go with its future.

But it will take time. The lessons and pain of the war are still far too recent to be forgotten and swept under the rug. Nor should they be in my opinion. Hiding the bad parts of the past does no service to the future.

For me, my relationship with the war is a funny thing. It’s something that fascinates me, has taught me a great deal, and is something that will stay with me throughout the rest of my thesis process (and no doubt my life). But at the same time it is something that at times I wish would simply vanish into the past so that Bosnia would be known to the world as something more and something different than a country marred by a violent past. Or that when I tell people about here, it’s not the first thing that comes to their minds.

So this blog post was not what I thought it would be when I started out. I didn't teach you about the difference between Bosniaks, Serbs, and Croats. I didn't break down the leaders or the ˝bad˝ guys (not like that's even an option with this conflict) or the major battles and sieges. I didn't give you something you can take back to your history classes and impress people with your knowledge of. But I hope it reminded you that next time you hear about a conflict, be it Darfur, Syria, the Congo, or the countless others currently taking place, and you hear about the casualty count, or the taking of a city or whatever else our news deems worthy of announcing to the world, that those aren't just numbers on a screen in faraway places. Don't make the mistake I did by thinking they are facts in an article of figures on a graph and distance yourself from the fact that they are real people like you and me that are watching their lives burn before their very eyes.

Posted by remullin 00:14 Archived in Bosnia And Herzegovina Comments (0)

Hope

Can you build a country without it?

Hope and optimism are two things that I had never paid much thought to in my life. I mean I would consider myself a pretty hopeful or optimistic person. I'm always optimistic about what my future will hold, I shoot for the moon with the hopes that I can achieve bigger and bigger goals, and I have hope for all the people in my life that they found rewarding and happy lives doing what they love. But despite that, it's not something that I ever consciously really thought about. I just (naively) assumed most people were hopeful and optimistic about their futures, in both big and small ways.

However, in Bosnia hope has been something that Addie and I have talked about a lot and it has led me to do some thinking. Like everything else in Bosnia, hope is a complicated thing. There's no clear answer (which is cool with me otherwise there would be nothing to reflect on and it would be boring, plus I'd have nothing to blog about). Everyone's different, everyone has a different experience and they're all at different places. But some trends kind of seem to emerge when you talk with people about it.

One kind of theme that has emerged from my talks with people is that there is a lack of hope or optimism in Bosnia. Which I guess should not be that surprising. If you had watched your entire country descend into chaos and bloodshed only 20 years ago, it's probably hard to be too hopeful for your future or optimistic about where your country is headed. But it’s not necessarily the lack of hope that makes it resonate with me, it's how it's personified and who expresses it.

It first kind of came up on my radar our third weekend in Bosnia. We (Addie, Laura, and I) had gone to Mostar for the weekend. There we met some of Hannah, Yao, and Chendan's local friends. Over the weekend, Addie asked one of them what he wanted to do (background: he is 19, graduated from the local high school, works at a local bakery as part time job, and volunteers at the Eco Center where Yao and Chendan intern) with his life. He looked at her like she was insane for asking such a thing (and no it was not due to language difficulties, he spoke excellent English). It was simply a question that youth rarely get asked. Unlike in the US where we grow up hearing the question ˝what do you want to be when you grow up˝ from kindergarten onward, Bosnian youth that I've talked with (disclaimer: ˝youth˝ in Bosnia is not what we would think of, it's young people usually like 18 to mid to late 20's) didn't grow up in the same environment. Many were born just before or during the war and grew up in an environment that I can only begin to imagine. Life revolved around simply staying alive, not asking little kids about their dreams of being dancers or firefighters.
This mentality did not seem to fade with time. A vast number of youth here never seem to have been encouraged to dream big or create vast hopes for their futures. It's not a question or idea that was rasied. And if never asked, how can one expect to come up with an answer?

This lack of hope and optimism also struck me during a conversation with one of my co-workers. During the height of the JMBG protests (talked about in earlier blog post) and the media frenzy surrounding it, I asked her if she thought the protest would lead to any lasting change in Bosnia (side note: I had gone to the protests twice with her, she was very involved with it, she is also extremely well educated and has spent time abroad). I expected her response to be optimistic and excited about the potential. Instead, she bluntly told me ˝No, I don't think it will change anything.˝ She proceeded to tell me that things in Bosnia will not change until the country again descends into war and the city ˝turns to hell˝ as people simply try to survive. Needless to say, not the most uplifting of conversations about Bosnia's future. When I pressed her as to why though, she had valid arguments. She argued that nothing can change within the current political structure because no one with true power or aspirations can join the protests. Under the current system, one of the only ways to get a job is to have someone you know with power (aka those for whom the current political situation is working). As such people are still too scared to truly challenge their government and push for lasting changes because the risks to their futures remains too high. Mind you , this is all coming from a young women who is working for an NGO focused on bringing a better future to Bosnia and she herself does hold out hope that things will improve. But despite that, pessimism still remains in her outlook.

Those two snapshots of conversations give you just a slight glimpse into the lack of hope and optimism that many youth within Bosnia grow up with and prescribe to. Yet it's not the only side. After all, I came to Bosnia to work for an NGO focused on giving this country, youth specifically, a brighter future. It doesn't really add up that an NGO like that would exist in a country where there was no hope.

And from what I have seen, there is an incredible amount of hope in this country. It's not naive hope, the individuals I've talked with understand that Bosnia has a whole lot of issues that they're going to need to work through, everything from the education system and the economy to how the constitution is written and structure of the country itself (I mean nothing too monumental, give the interns like four days and we can get it all sorted out, ha). But despite these challenges, they see potential.

During my time here I've gotten to meet a variety of youth that come to KULT for training programs as part of the project I am working on called Youth Decide on Democracy!. The youth I’ve met are amazingly passionate and inspiring individuals. They believe in the future of their country, are working to improve their local communities, and strive to give the youth of Bosnia a voice. People don’t work that hard for something if they have no hope for achieving it.

I’ve also gotten to work on midterm reports and final assessments at KULT that evaluated past projects youth have completed through the Institute’s support. Projects that include things like improving sexual education students receive, bringing together youth from various ethnic backgrounds, cleaning up local public spaces, and teaching younger peers about the importance of political engagement. These are truly impressive feats that youth are able to accomplish despite all of the obstacles standing in their way and I applaud them.
So the future of Bosnia and Herzegovina is murky at best. But despite the struggles it faces, and the lack of optimism amongst many, there are bright spots. People that believe in the country, believe that it can be made better, and believe that despite how awful the past has been that there is hope for moving forward. Through their efforts, things will change and for the better.

And maybe I’m betting on the long shot, but I have hope for this place too :)

Posted by remullin 07:26 Archived in Bosnia And Herzegovina Comments (0)

Travel to Find Yourself?

Is that how it should be?

I've been thinking lately about this idea of traveling to find yourself. As I looked through other travelers' blogs whose blogs had also been pulled as features (fun fact, Traveler's Point apparently liked my blog so it is one of the website's features) it seemed to be a common trend. People taking trips around the world or immersing themselves in new cultures as a way to try to ˝find themselves˝ in the craziness of life.

Now, like most people, I always liked that idea. The idea that through travel you take yourself completely out of your comfort zone and learn a whole bunch of nifty new stuff, like that you can survive off of street food for a semester, that going without doing laundry for say three weeks is not the end of the world, or that you actually love to write (yes boys, I know it was my assigned super power but I never really bought into it). Oh and I guess you learn some stuff about yourself too, like what you really value in life, what privileges you take for granted, and how to just spend time getting to know yourself. But all kidding aside I believe those are really important things to learn and if you find them while traveling, I think that's awesome! I definitely believe that I learned more about me while in China then probably any other time in my life. But as I've thought about it more, I've realized that I'm becoming less and less of a fan of the idea of traveling to find yourself. Now just hear me out as to why before people start saying I'm wrong for disagreeing with like 99% of other travelers.

I think that you should travel as a way to lose yourself. Traveling should be hard, it should challenge you, frustrate you, make you ask yourself at least once why you ever decided to go on this stupid (or a stronger word works too) trip, and force you to be uncomfortable. Travel should also be rewarding. There should be moments that take your breath away, that you feel in your very soul, that make you ask yourself how did you ever get so lucky, and that restore your faith in the goodness of humanity. If you want something easy or predictable, take a vacation, don't go traveling. In my opinion, there's a colossal difference.

I can hear you thinking, ˝Yeah Rach, that's all well and good, but aren't the moments you’re describing the moments that people say help them find themselves?˝And you're right, they totally can be. But I think they should do more than that too. Those should be the moments where everything you thought you knew gets thrown out the window. The moments where you are forced to take a step back and realize that you don't have all the answers, that you don't know what comes next, and you don't necessarily know if you're okay with all of that.

Placing yourself in another culture should make you question things. It should make you question if everything your own culture has imparted on you is correct, if your perceptions of the outside world are accurate, and if at the end of the day you can really say you know as much as you thought you did when you woke up that morning. It should tear down your mental bubble about what's possible in the world, in some cases it should remind you of the horrors mankind is capable of (Bosnia has an eerie way of doing that to you), and in some cases remind you how resilient and powerful the individual can be (Bosnia is pretty good at this one too). You should return home (or at least to your ˝passport country˝ as one Buzzfeed list referred to it as) with more questions than when you left. If you come home with everything figured out and perfectly compartmentalized in your brain, I challenge you to dig a little deeper the next time you go somewhere, open your eyes a bit more, and ask a few more questions. I have a feeling it will be worth it.

So if you go abroad (or just travel in general, I think the same things can hold true if you go 10 miles or 10,000 miles away) and you ˝find yourself˝ that's wonderful and I hope you can take what you learned with you for the rest of your life. But I also hope that's not all you got out of the experience. I hope you lost stereotypes, you let go of preconceived perceptions, and you realized that there's a whole lot of you that you're still working on figuring out. I hope you lost yourself.

Posted by remullin 11:07 Archived in Bosnia And Herzegovina Comments (0)

Too Busy for Bosnia?

Remembering to Slow Down

For those of you that know me, you know I have a tendency to take on a lot of things. 18 credits, two honors reading groups, two campus jobs, four extra-curriculars, and a fellowship application or two, that's totally normal, right? (For a number of you reading this I expect it is, so I feel like you'll be particularly be able to relate to this post) Well being typical me, the insanity of what I take on doesn't stop when its summer (of course not, that would make life too easy).

My to do list for this summer includes:

  • Interning 45 hours a week
  • 2000+ pages of summer reading for Great Books (seriously why does my copy of Brothers Karamzov have to be 919 pages long? Even by Russian standards of punishment that seems harsh)
  • Conducting field research and interviews for my honors thesis
  • Managing the insanity that is ETL planning (and keeping track of what the 10 other wonderful members of the team are doing in their individual roles)
  • Putting together my Fulbright application (all essays are written, yay! But need some serious edits. Thank God for Phil and that he already put up with me through the Truman process)
  • Creating the framework and getting approval for my Robson Scholar Project (shout out to Katie Spoden on this one, although I don't think you read my blog, our project is going to be spectacular)

Simply keeping on track with all of this (okay, so I'm not on track with Great Books but everything else is progressing decently) is enough to keep me more than a little busy with my days. And to keep me up at night sorting through about a million thoughts occasionally. Add to this that I'm living in Bosnia, an amazing country with so much to offer and so much to do, and life gets even crazier. Which leads to what has probably been my biggest struggle during my time in Bosnia, trying to find a balance.

I'll admit I'm not the best at this. Again, for those of you that know me this should come as no surprise. I have a tendency to go into what some have affectionately dubbed ˝lockdown mode˝ and only come up for air when I absolutely have to. I laser focus in and for the most part ignore what is going on around me (seriously there are times when I would probs forget to eat if not reminded) because all of my thoughts are consumed on the present task at hand. And in a lot of cases I get pretty good results from it. But in Bosnia that's a very dangerous thing to do.

I'm only here for 10 weeks (well 11 if you count the time I'm spending in Istanbul – SO PUMPED) and it is far too easy to let that time slip away while I spend my time working, sending e-mails, drafting essays and memos, and attempting to read (made it through Don Quixote at least and a quarter of the way through Brothers, so see I have actually done some reading). And while all of those things are important and necessary to get done, I'm constantly reminding myself that they’re not the most important. The most important is to take advantage of this once in a lifetime opportunity. To spend my nights wandering through Old Town rather than in the apartment reading. To spend my weekends traveling rather than getting interviews collected. To be able to step away from the laptop and put down the smart phone and just enjoy coffee (or wine, they have excellent wine here) with new friends. So thank God for my roommates for keeping me from being a hermit, dragging me out of the apartment when necessary, and reminding me how lucky we are to be here.

As time is winding down here (the last of the other interns fly home two weeks from yesterday, sad face) I know everything will get done one way or another. My Fulbright App will get done, our Robson project already has the support of the McCarthy Center, and ETL is composed of an amazing group of people that I could not have more faith in to accomplish what is needed. I have an extra week to get my interviews collected and have no doubt that given the number of contacts I have available that they will be great so I don't need to panic about that just yet. And as for my Great Books reading, well that's what bus, train and plane rides are for. And if all else fails, I'll skim the last half and check sparknotes (but sshh, don't tell Scott).
Regardless, looking back on this trip 10 years from now, what I'm going to remember are the random adventures I had and the nights that we stayed out until 3:00 am just talking. The times, that as Hannah put it, I ˝took a second to get off the hamster wheel.˝

Now I just need to remember that mindset whenever I have the compulsive urge to check my e-mail or edit another essay (hey, some habits take awhile to break).

Posted by remullin 03:57 Archived in Bosnia And Herzegovina Comments (0)

The People One Meets

Everything happens for a reason

Ever have one of those mornings where you wake up and you have to take a few seconds to ask yourself, did that really happen? And no, I am not referring to mornings where these questions are caused from the alcohol induced haze of the previous nights. But mornings where you can’t believe that fate worked out so well the night before or that of all the billions of people in the world, your path just managed to cross with someone else’s at the perfect moment. I think we have all had a morning like this so I hope you are smiling and reminiscing as you read this. Allow me to tell you about my night last night though that caused me to have one of those moments this morning.

Yesterday afternoon did not start off on a high note. Addie and I had made plans to go to Medjugorje for the weekend. Background moment, Medjugorje is a small Bosnian town where the Virgin Mary is reported to have been appearing to 10 “visionaries” since 1981. The town has become a modern day Lourdes or Fatima and a sight of numerous miracles. Addie had been there on a pilgrimage with her family last year and said it was amazing experience and I had done a report on the town during my senior year religion class and was curious about it. As a result, it was on the bucket list of places to check out while in Bosnia. Our plan was to take the 4:45 bus (the only daily bus to get there) and spend the weekend.
I got off work early, rushed home and threw a collection of clothes, toiletries and shoes in my backpack (new record, 20 minutes from entering to the apartment to being packed and ready to go) and Addie and I set off for the bus station (not much of a trek since it is literally across the street from our apartment). We were a little close on time, but purchased our tickets and arrived at our platform at about 4:35. There was already a bus waiting, but we checked the locations it was listed as stopping at and did not see Medjugorje listed and assumed that in typical Bosnian fashion, our bus was running late. We sat down to wait. The bus left (before the 4:45 departure time listed on our tickets) and moments later a new bus pulled up. Again, the bus did not have Medjugorje listed, but we figured maybe that was because it was a small stop along the route. As we boarded the bus, I asked the driver “Medjugorje?” I was quickly given a look the conveyed we were on the wrong bus. With sinking stomachs, we disembarked. After asking in Bosnglish (our combination of Bosnian and English) we were informed that our bus had already left. To make us feel even worse, we had watched our bus leave right in front of us. Awesome, we’re cool.

We dejectedly walked to information and asked about alternative ways of getting to Medjugorje. We were informed there were none. Again, awesome. Love public transportation so much sometime. But the bus company was nice enough to refund us our money and we walked home brainstorming ideas for what to do with our suddenly open weekend. We decided we would stay in Sarajevo for the night. We made plans to go out to eat in Old Town and then maybe meet up with some friends we had met in Mostar after. However, upon returning home I promptly fell asleep for an hour and a half on our coach. When I woke up (around 8:00) poor Addie was starving and it looked like we weren’t going to be able to do both dinner and meet up with the Mostar crew.

We decided to focus on dinner and headed to Old Town. Addie really wanted to try a restaurant called “To Be or to Be”. It was more substantially more expensive than our normal dining choices, but when I had been previously with Laura we both agreed it was worth the price given the quality, service and ambiance of the place (tucked away in the back alleys of the Ottoman area and it feels like you’re literally walking into someone’s kitchen when you enter) So I figured why not.

As we sat down at one of the 2 small tables inside the restaurant (around 8:30), we discussed our disappointment over missing the bus and not getting to go to Medjugorje. About 15 minutes after we had sat down the other table (recently vacated by a charming American woman we had briefly chatted with) was filled by two men, one looking to be around 35 and the other a little over 60. We exchanged polite smiles (it’s impossible not to in this place because you are literally sitting within a foot of one another) and continued talking.
Within moments though both tables realized the other was speaking English and when you’re used to hearing almost exclusively Bosnian, this is a big deal. You instantly have a bond and are like one step away from best friends. We struck up the typical tourist conversation about what was good at the restaurant what, what brought both groups to Sarajevo etc.

We learned that our dining companions, Ronnie and Simone, were British (Ronnie, the older gentlemen growing up just blocks away from the Man U pitch, more on this bond between us later, and Simone had grown up in Belfast during the “Troubles”). Both now lived with their families outside of London. They were instructors at the British version of West Point and also trained select battalions and officers (think Special Forces, special police etc.) of armies around the world (kind of nifty). They had just completed a week of working with officers in the Bosnian army about the psychology of leadership.

The questions then turned towards what Addie and I were doing in Sarajevo. We told them about our internships and what each of our NGO’s did. Then we started to discuss why in the world two American girls in their 20’s would want to spend their summers? As we told them our usual canned responses about wanting to be challenged, unique experiences etc, I mentioned that I was also working on an honors thesis on the role of nationalist narratives and genocide.

Now I’m used to getting weird looks when I tell people I study genocide and find it interesting enough to write a thesis on. The looks usually range from concern over my mental sanity to concern for the listeners safety being in my presence. But the look I got from Simone was something completely different. It was utter awestruck. I turned to Ronnie with a quizzical look on my face. He smiled and responded that I had just made Simone’s life.

As it turns out, Simone’s academic training is on narratives and their impacts of group behavior, perceptions of evil, socialization of violence etc. It’s the focus of the courses he teaches at the military academy. And his passion is narratives and genocide. When I told him that was my interest, his mind was blown and we were instantly talking as if we were long lost friends. Debating scholars such as Goldhagen and Power, applying Kant’s ideas of imperatives to groups violence, and discussing his own experiences growing up in Northern Ireland at the climax of religious violence.

As our nerdiness literally spewed over, the evening flew by. Ronnie talked with Addie and I about his experiences in Afghanistan, Iraq, and around Africa. We debated topics such as religion, American politics, and the necessary balance between soft and hard power. It was unreal the conversation topics that were explored and how easy of a time we all had discussing them.

Before we knew it, it was 2:00 in the morning. We had spent close to 6 hours with two complete strangers discussing everything under the sun and not even noticing the hours slipping by. We exchanged contact information (Simone has already sent me a reading list to help with my thesis along with more articles than I know what to do with, I am so excited words cannot even begin to describe it) and went on our ways. It was honestly one of the best nights I have had in the city.

As I woke up this morning and replayed the evening in my head, I knew without a shadow of a doubt that we were meant to miss our bus to Medjugorje. By letting go of our plans and letting fate take the lead, things turned out better than we ever could have hoped. I’m already excited to continue to foster the relationship we began last night. Simone’s invited me to stay with his wife and son and do some research in the British libraries if I’m ever interested and Ronnie promised that we’ll go to a Man U game. So no idea if I’ll get to London any time soon but with those two offers on the table it might be worth a visit.

Posted by remullin 09:24 Archived in Bosnia And Herzegovina Comments (1)

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